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In Minneapolis, Somali-Americans set out to reshape US-Somali relations

Hiiraan Online
Sunday September 24, 2017

Aman Obsiye, Chairman of the Vision 2021 Summit. Friday September 22nd, 2017. PHOTO: Dalmar Gure/ HOL

Minneapolis (HOL) - Somali-Americans descended on Minneapolis Minnesota - home to the largest concentration of Somalis in the United States - for the inaugural ‘Vision 2021’ summit. Vision 2021 is a policy summit aimed at influencing US foreign policy in Somalia while also introducing Somalia as an investment opportunity to American companies.

The two-day event brought together US politicians, national security expert and academics with Somali businessmen, civil organizations and key stakeholders to discuss Somalia’s roadmap to 2021.

U.S Congressman Tom Emmer and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar made brief remarks at the summit and then opened the floor to Abdirizak Farah, a senior policy advisor with the Department of Homeland Security who talked about the impact the Somali community in the diaspora can have in forging U.S. public policy and public opinion on Somalia.

The University of Minnesota President, Eric Kaler also attended the summit and spoke of the partnership between the university and the Somali community.

A panel discussion on National Security in Somalia with Irfan Saeed, the Director of Counter Violence Extremism with the U.S. State Department; John Harrington, the Metro Transit Chief of Police for the twin cities area and former Minnesota State Senator and Marc Frey, the Executive Director of Bancroft Global Development sought to chart a path to defeat violent extremism through strategic partnerships.

The panel agreed that stability and peace is a key ingredient for economic and social growth in Somalia. They applauded the Somali governments plan to develop a national CVE strategy that includes the civil society, religious groups, women and the diaspora; as well as their cooperation with the international community in tackling anti-money laundering in countering terrorism financing.

Mr Frey and Mr Harrington also discussed a plan to use Somali-American police officers to train their counterparts in Somalia. Bancroft Global Developments  - a an infrasctructure development investment firm that grew out of a landmine clearing company - is currently training AMISOM troops in Somalia.

They explained the pilot project that involved a Minneapolis area police officer travelling to Mogadishu for a year and assisting with training and planning. The project also includes provisions for supplies and equipment that are instrumental to police work.

Aman Obsiye, the Chairman of the Vision 2021 summit says that the event aims to develop policies that will help steer Somalia out of its failed state status by 2021. Universal suffrage is essential to Somalia becoming fully democratic.

He noted that Somalia was a functioning state for 30 years (July 1960-January 1991), and by 2021, if concrete gains aren’t made, the Somali state will be failed longer than it has been functioning.

The second panel discussion focused on the role of women in reshaping Somalia policy. Yussur Abrar, the former governor of the Central Bank of Somalia and Laura Bloomberg, the Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs highlighted the advances and contribution that women have made in Somalia’s progress as well as the opportunity to do more for Somalia and America. Fartun Weli, the executive director of Isuroon, moderated the panel discussion.

Yussur Abrar was also the keynote speaker of the afternoon. She is an accomplished Somali-American who reached the pinnacles of the male dominated high-finance world. She spoke of the vision and action required to rebuild Somalia well beyond 2021.

She advocated employment be based on merit rather than clan affiliation, calling tribalism the "biggest divider of Somalia today".

“We must focus on what unites us rather than divides us”.. clanism is the biggest divider of Somalia today. It is the main top of conversation among any group of Somalis.”

Daud Mohamed, one of the main organizers of the Vision 2021 Summit, and a senior executive at the Ka Joog organization said that civic organizations and civic engagement is imperative to a healthy democracy and one of the greatest vehicles for change. He said that part of the summit is to be a sounding board for responsible civic groups to share their ideas and discuss key issues.

“As a member of the voting public, Somali-Americans wield significant influence, especially here in Minneapolis, where we have elected public officials with a Somali background.” He went on to say that “the power or influence that we have here (in America), as a global superpower, can go a long way in forming the policies and direction our government (US government) makes back home (in Somalia).

He said that this event is just one of a series of policy summits they plan to organize every year up until 2021.

The themes of Vision 2021 Summit in 2017 was national security, women empowerment and the youth and diaspora. The organizers say that theme and location of next years event will be announced in their findings report which will be released in the near future.


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